Monday, 12 March 2012

Burgers & Burger Buns

Hamburger and Fries
There's a fashion these days for burgers to be the size of rugby balls. You can't go into a pub, it seems, without the obligatory gigantic colon-clogging homemade version served with bacon, mushrooms, blue cheese, onion rings, egg, and probably a pork chop as well. Oh, and that'll be £15, thank you very much, and we'll throw in eight chips stacked up Jenga-style. If you're reading this expecting a recipe for one of these 1lb-plus meaty monsters that you'll be crapping out for days, then you're going to be disappointed. Look, there are hundreds of recipes for weird and wonderful burgers out there – they're not exactly difficult to make. However, what this recipe will show is that simplicity is sometimes better, because these burgers contain just two ingredients: 1. Meat. 2. Salt. That's it. Seriously, no onions, no breadcrumbs, no eggs. Meat and salt – not even any oil on my hotplate. And the size? About 125g each, which is kinda a quarter-pounder size (and when I make them again I'll probably make them even smaller – about 85g should do it).
What you need is decent beef with a meat to fat ratio of about 70%-30%. You can use a mixture of brisket and chuck and get your butcher to grind it for you, or just buy some good-quality mince, avoiding anything too lean. Of course, add anything to your finished burger that takes your fancy – the one above simply has mayo, lettuce, tomato, American cheese and ketchup – but let the beef be the star. And, yes, I did make the burger buns as well, the recipe for which comes from Comme Ça in Los Angeles, a restaurant that knows a thing or two about burgers.

Burger Buns (makes 8)
Ingredients:
250ml warm water
3 tbsp warm milk

2 tsp active dry yeast

2 1/2 tbsp sugar
2 large eggs
750g bread flour

80g plain flour

1 1/2 tsp salt

2 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

Sesame seeds (optional) 

Method:
1. Combine water, milk, yeast and sugar. Let stand until foamy, about five minutes. Meanwhile, beat one egg.
2. In a large bowl, whisk flours with salt. Add butter and rub into flour between your fingers, making crumbs. Stir in yeast mixture and beaten egg until a dough forms. Scrape dough onto clean, well-floured counter and knead, scooping dough up, slapping it on counter and turning it, until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. The dough will be on the sticky side so it can be a bit messy, but keep in mind that the more flour you knead in, the tougher the buns will get. Try to leave them tackier than you would a round loaf.
3. Shape dough into a ball and return it to bowl. Cover with clingfilm and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, one to two hours.
4. Line a baking sheet with grease-proof paper. Divide dough into 8 equal parts. Gently roll each into a ball and arrange two to three inches apart on baking sheet. Cover loosely with a piece of clingfilm lightly coated in nonstick spray and let buns rise in a warm place for one hour.
5. Set a large shallow pan of water on oven floor. Preheat oven to 200C. Beat remaining egg with one tablespoon water and brush some on top of buns. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, if using. Bake, turning sheet halfway through baking, until tops are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Burgers (makes 4-6 burgers depending on size):
Ingredients:
500g good-quality beef mince
salt

Method:
1. Divide the mince into 4 (125g each) or 6 (80-85g each). Form into burger patties – roll between hands and flatten with the palm. Excuse me for writing the following, but try to avoid handling the meat too much. Do not season at this stage as the salt will draw out any moisture, leaving dry burgers when cooked. Place in the fridge for at least an hour to firm up.
2. Heat a frying pan, griddle pan or hotplate to a hot heat. Do not add any oil. When ready to cook, remove the burgers from the fridge and make an indentation in the top of each with your thumb (seen it done before, seems to help cook evenly).
3. Season the burgers on each side with salt. Be generous here, as beef can take a lot of seasoning. Place the burgers on the hot pan/plate and leave for 2 minutes. Do not attempt to flip them yet as they will just fall apart. After two minutes, enough oil will be released and the burgers will come away easily.
4. Flip, and again leave for two minutes. After this, cook to taste, maybe another minute or so each side.

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